Regulating violent dogs

Ontario’s Attorney General recently announced the province will take legislative action in an attempt to reduce the number of violent dog attacks. Although past efforts have focused exclusively on pit bulls, new efforts are expected to encompass all dangerous dogs. Still, pit bulls seem to be receiving the most attention and it is possible that Ontario may soon ban pit bulls altogether.

Tougher legislation on dangerous dogs is needed now. Violent and uncontrollable dogs have killed or seriously injured several people in the last few years.

Such legislation on dangerous dogs has been proven to be effective. Winnipeg introduced a pit bull ban in 1990 and witnessed a significant drop in the number of incidents resulting in serious human injury or animal death—there were 28 such cases in 1989, but zero this year.

Besides, government already regulates or prohibits the ownership of many dangerous animals so why shouldn’t similar rules apply to pit bulls?

Dangerous dog legislation should also focus on the duties of the dog owners. Negligent owners of violent dogs must be held legally responsible for the actions of their pets. Although violent dog behaviour can be attributed in some cases to the dog’s genetics, it is clear the animal’s environment also helps to shape its behaviour.

It is reasonable to assume that owners who abuse or mistreat their dogs are aware they are creating an accident waiting to happen and to conclude that they should be held responsible for their abusive actions. The onus must fall on the dog owners to monitor the behaviour of their pets and to ensure that the pets do not pose a public threat.

The goal of the new legislation is to protect the public, not to deny dog owners their rights. Given the success in Winnipeg, it seems likely that an effective and appropriate solution can be found for Ontario.

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